Fact Check

Liberty University Students Faced $10 Fine Over Ted Cruz Speech

Rumor: Students at Liberty University faced a $10 fine if they missed a Ted Cruz speech.

Published Mar 25, 2015


Claim:   Students at Liberty University faced a $10 fine if they missed a Ted Cruz speech.


FALSE: Students not in attendance for a Ted Cruz speech at Liberty University were fined for their absence from that specific event.
TRUE: Liberty University students are fined $10 for missing weekly convocation events.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, March 2015]

Facebook - is now posing Ted Cruz speech at Lberty University
where he announces his run for presidency. Some are saying Liberty
University students were forced to watch the speech or pay a $10 fine??
True or False


I heard on the radio this morning that students at Liberty
University were required to attend Ted Cruz' presidential campaign
announcement. Is there any truth to this?


Origins:   On 23 March 2015, Senator Ted Cruz announced his intent to pursue the Republican nomination for the 2016 presidential race. Cruz, the first major candidate to make such an announcement, did so during a speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Following Cruz's 23 March 2015 speech, reports began circulating on the Internet claiming that students at Liberty University were obliged to attend the event under the threat of a $10 fine. On the day of Cruz's speech, the website BuzzFeed published an article about the unusually strict attendance requirements for certain events at Liberty University, including the one at which CRuz's announcement was made. The site interviewed students (mainly supporters of Rand Paul, a potential challenger to Cruz) who felt that their conscripted attendance gave an inaccurate impression of widespread endorsement by the student body:

Though the school's president, Jerry Falwell Jr., told students to not take Cruz's speech as an endorsement on behalf of the school, the Stand with Rand crew only saw it as such.

"We were upset about it. All students who live on campus, so over 7,000 are required to attend or have a $10 fine," said Eli McGowan, a 20-year-old junior who heads "Students for Rand" on campus. "We know that Ted Cruz knows this and it's a smart idea to have a captive audience to announce your campaign. To have 10,000 people show up. Most students take this a tacit endorsement. People on Facebook have been saying oh the board wouldn't have allowed him to come if they didn't think he was the right candidate."

Many individuals not affiliated with Liberty University took the claims to mean that students were ordered to pay a fine if they opted out of attending Cruz's speech. While that was technically true to a degree, it wasn't quite accurate in the broader context of the school's rules and regulations.

Since well before Ted Cruz announced his 2016 presidential candidacy, Liberty University has maintained a policy mandating student attendance for several weekly convocation events. Per the school's current Student Appeals Court Handbook [PDF], an unauthorized absence from required convocation events (whether or not Ted Cruz is involved) constitutes an infraction for which a $10 fine is clearly articulated. Other infractions at that level include dress code violations, breaking curfew while residing on campus, and "horseplay."

In response to the rumors about Cruz's appearance at Liberty University and fines, President Jerry Falwell clarified the purpose of convocation in a statement which explained that the senator was one of many figures invited to appear at such events throughout the school year:

"Convocation is not a worship service. Convocation is Liberty's educational forum for students to hear from speakers with a wide diversity of viewpoints from all walks of life — entertainment, business, politics, ministry, and more — many of whom are globally respected as experts in their areas. It is no secret that Convocation is held three times a week and attendance is required, just like class is required for students. No one is expected to agree with every speaker on every point. In fact, Convocation speakers do not all line up with traditional Evangelical Christian viewpoints or even Liberty University's doctrinal statement. A fundamental part of the college experience is being exposed to a variety of viewpoints so students can better understand why they hold their own beliefs and be better prepared to defend them. Liberty intentionally gives every student this opportunity to become well-rounded on important matters of faith and culture.

The fact that some students attended the service wearing T-shirts supporting another potential candidate shows that our students are not indoctrinated; they are free — and encouraged — to form their own opinions about what they hear in Convocation and to express it.

I should, however, point out that standing ovations are not required. Sen. Cruz did receive several of those today. Students are free to cheer or boo as they see fit. I also think it is irresponsible to take anonymous social media posts and assume that they are students, or are representative of the entire student body.

It fills me with great pride, then, to see that our students consistently provide such a warm atmosphere for every speaker who comes to campus, regardless if they agree with them or not.

Right after Convocation today, a pre-med student, who is a Democrat, came up to me and shared his appreciation for Convocation and how we bring in such a diverse panel of speakers. He said that he appreciated the opportunity to hear from Sen. Cruz so close to his announcement to run for president. He appreciated that Liberty was chosen as a platform for such a prominent moment. The student told me that he enjoyed the speech and even found some common ground with Senator Cruz on many issues."

While students at Liberty University were subject to fines for missing the convocation event at which Ted Cruz announced his candidacy, that was true for all events of that description at the institution (and students are required to attend several each week). Some students (particularly those who favored different candidates) objected to what they deemed an implied endorsement of Cruz, but the appearance in question was no different from others involving guest speakers at the university. Not only was Cruz's speech not unique in terms of mandatory attendance and fines, but the candidate was only one of many politicians to appear at Liberty University's regular convocation events.

Last updated:   25 March 2015


    Nocera, Kate.   "It's a Warm, Socially Conservative Reception for Ted Cruz."

    BuzzFeed.   23 March 2015.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

Article Tags